So, the Southwest, you say?

21 Jan

How could I possibly narrow down the 50 glorious states to Arizona and Colorado?  Well, here’s what I considered:

1.)    Timing is everything.  Things pretty much aligned with the culmination of my Argentina trip.  I was able to give my employer 4 weeks’ notice in advance of my 2 week trip that, upon my return, I would transition to PRN (or “as needed”) status.  My plan was to begin a local “travel” PT contract (which is typically 13 weeks) at the end of November to get my feet wet, then hit the road.  Two out-of-state assignments in a row, plus travel time, would equate to approximately 7 months away.  I also wanted to be home before the holidays and any on-the-road winter weather.

2.)    I had a “feeling”.  Not much more to it than that.  My gut said, “Go west, young (wo)man!”  As I described in my last post, I haven’t experienced many states since my pre-teen days.  Plus, the opportunity to explore natural landscapes I haven’t yet seen was alluring.  My gut also told me that my next round of PT travels (should I enjoy this lifestyle for a bit longer) will take me back toward my homeland of the northeast.   But, I’m getting ahead of myself…

3.)    ‘Tis the season. Based on the aforementioned “timing”, I hoped to be headed to my first destination roughly mid to late February.   Although I love cold weather and snow, managing to drive and live in the motor home (named “MH”— creative, I know) while worrying about frozen water lines/pipes and icy roads was not something I intended to take on during my first outing.  As much as I adore seeing my breath on a brisk day, I equally detest scalding hot weather (a bit ironic that my home base is central Texas where we saw 70+ triple digit days in 2011).  Therefore, I hoped to escape the torrid temperatures for my second contract (theoretically, to start mid/late May).

4.)    Family ties.  Although Arizona was always in the running, it sealed its place in the final two when my mom and stepdad relocated from Texas to the Grand Canyon State.  I frequently live apart from my scattered family, but being close enough to them for visits (and pet sitting) seemed appealing. Also, they are full time RVers themselves and will likely have to field a few SOS calls regarding MH. This #4 consideration is also a strong influence on my second round of travel hopefully taking me north, to bridge the geographical gap between me and my family up there.

5.)    It’s not about the destination but the journey.  What can I see and do while en route to my job?  Initially, New Mexico had been in the mix of travel assignment possibilities, but the areas in which I was interested had a high probability of snow (refer back to #1 and #3 considerations).  So, highlights of New Mexico moved to the list of “places to stop along the way”.  Additionally, what locations could I incorporate on my journey from first assignment to second?  I also needed to be realistic about the distance of my trip, not only for my two final destinations but for the time I would take to go from point A to point B.  I’m not a good long-distance driver (again, a bit ironic) and so I needed to be cognizant of the length of time I would be on the road each day.   Another consideration:  driving MH plus tow dolly plus car also limits the speed at which I can travel safely.  Finally, time is money.  As fun as it would be, I can’t afford to be too leisurely on my trek to each assignment.  Time between each assignment is without pay (other than a travel allowance from my company, which will only put a dent in the gas expenses of my fleet).

Given all my considerations, how has it all panned out?  Well, my timing wasn’t that great.  I got cold feet on my plan to be 3-ish hours away from home (so I could take advantage of some tax-free benefits) and be able to come home occasionally for weekends.  It just felt too fast for my MH preparedness, and I was without a decent cat-sitting option.  So, I narrowed my window to seeking an assignment that was commutable from my home.  This bit me in the ass, and I was contract-less for many weeks longer than I thought.  Until my January start date, I treaded water working PRN at my former full-time gig and dabbled in a bit more contract home health.

Looking forward, I selected Arizona and Colorado for my assignment destinations.  My delay in getting to Arizona would actually work to my advantage if I wanted to be near Sedona or Flagstaff (potentially snowy earlier) but would make for a hot time if I wanted to be near Phoenix or Tucson.  If fate landed me in the sweltering desert, I knew I could look forward to blissful weather in Colorado for the summer/early fall.  I would hit New Mexico sites on the way to Arizona and catch the Grand Canyon on the way to the big CO.  I lined up a great couple, who fulfill their love of travel and new experiences by house sitting, to take care of my home and kitty while I’m away.  Luckily, the flexibility of their lifestyle meshes well with that of a travel PT (as you don’t know exactly when or where you’re going start an assignment until just weeks before).   Sure, it’s an unpredictable and ambiguous career path… but it sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

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